When Barça last visited the Balaídos stadium in 2006, keeping goal for Celta de Vigo was José Manuel Pinto Colorado. For 2 seasons, Pinto shared the locker with Thiago and Rafinha’s old man, Mazinho.
For a time, he also shared the #1 GK duties with Frenchman Richard Dutruel. Dutruel was the first to make the move to Barça where he played from 2000 – 2002. Some years later in 2008, Pinto followed in his footsteps.
Back to Ye Olde Stomping Grounds
Tonight, Pinto returns to play against his old club courtesy of VV’s red card suspension. It’s a nostalgic occasion for Pinto as he loved his decade with Celta. In the 2005-06 season, he won the Zamora Trophy, conceding only 29 goals in 37 Liga games for a coefficient of 0.78.
Awarded the Captain’s Armband, Pinto also played in the 2003-04 UEFA Champions League with Celta, (reaching the Round of 16 when they were knocked out by Arsenal), as well as 6 seasons in the UEFA Cup competition during his time at Vigo.
The Barça website published a video showing 5 great goals that the Blaugrana has scored in Vigo. The first, from 1994/95 is barely visible in the thick fog, as Gheorghe Hagi strikes the ball from halfway to have it float into the net. The next 2 are golazos from Òscar García in 1996/97 with the 4th from outside the box coming from a Rivaldo freekick in a UEFA Cup match. The last is a juggle and volley from Gudjohnsen in 2006/07, leaving a perplexed Pinto to stand there and wonder what on earth just happened. He wasn’t alone – I mean, we were all perplexed when Gudjohnsen scored!
The Home Team
Celta does not come into this game in the best of shape, nor have they had the best of seasons back in La Liga Primera, winning only 6 games in total. Of their last 10 games, they have a 1W 2D 7L tally.
Sitting 19th on the Liga Table with 23 points, Celta is sandwiched 3 points above their Galician derby rival, Depor, and only 1 point below Mallorca sitting in 18th. Relegation looks imminent unless they can pick up their form and win the majority of the season’s 10 remaining games, while reliant on other teams above them dropping points.
Like Barça, Celta is suffering from injuries. Coach Resino is having to do without key players in Midfielder Álex López, Defenders Hugo Mallo and Samuel Llorca, 2nd GK Sergio Álvarez, and Forward Michael Krohn-Dehli.
Andrés Túñez is to miss this game because he received his 5th Yellow during the last Celta game which was their derby loss to Depor. Túñez arrived back from his NT duties with Venezuela carrying an injury, so he would have missed the game anyway.
The biggest loss is Celta’s leading goal-scorer, 25yo Iago Aspas who suffered a User Headspace Error during the Depor match and resorted to head-butting a Depor player lying on the ground. Shown a red card, the LFP Disciplinary Committee later banned him for 4 matches.
Hmm…. VV shouting at a referee = Aspas head-butting another player.
You can watch Iago’s transgression here:
The Estadio Municipal de Balaídos has to be one of the oldest in Spain. Opened in December 1928, it received its last renovation in 2004.
The newest of its 4 stands was built in 1981. Aptly called the Rio (Spanish for river), it was built over the original course of the Lagares river which was diverted to accommodate the stadium.
The stadium is old and shabby. Financial difficulties have meant that any plans for a replacement stadium have been put on hold.
Although extra drainage has been installed, the pitch (generally in good condition), can still get rather swampy in heavy rain and, as rain has been forecast up until the game is due to start, it may be rather soft underfoot.
Celta’s trainer, Abel Resino, came to Celta in February of this year after Paco Herrera was fired.
Resino remains pragmatic about the match. He commented that it was a good time to play Barça given their injuries and the focus on the upcoming CL game against PSG.
His tactics are thus:
I believe that Celta will play an intense game against the league leaders. We will defend well and try to surprise them with counter-attacks because, in my opinion, this is the only way in which to make life difficult for the Catalans.
Who’s Left to Play for Celta
On-loan from Arsenal South Korean, Park Chu-Young, will most likely get a start. Celta is pursuing a purchase of Chu-Young and team management will be intensely watching his performance in this match to see if he will be worth the money.
Resino has named the following players:
Goal-keepers: Javi Varas, 17yo Rubén Blanco
Defence: Roberto Lago, Vadim Demidov, Jonny Castro, Gustavo Cabral, Carlos Bellvís
Midfield: Borja Oubiña, Jonathan Vila, Daniel Pranjić, Augusto Fernández, Natxo Insa, Levy Madinda
Forwards: Park Chu-Young, Fabián Orellana, Toni Rodríguez, Quique de Lucas, Mario Bermejo
What To Expect
Celta will be uplifted by their passionate supporters and the stands will be a sea of pale blue scarves held aloft as they belt out the club anthem.
With each week bringing the club closer to relegation, the team is desperate for points, so the game is going to be tough. I expect that they will defend with a Citroën bus especially built for the occasion, until a Blaugrana goal will force them to play offensively. They’ll also look for opportunistic counter-attack goals.
The last game played between the 2 teams in Vigo (in 2006/07) was a narrow 2-3 victory to Barça with Gudjohnsen scoring the 3rd just before the game ended.
Javi Varas is always a tough cookie to get the ball past, and Messi will have to try very hard to get some records which I’ll mention below.
Although Aspas is missing, there are plenty of goal-scorers for Resino to call upon, with players like Toni Rodríguez and Mario Bermejo.
As always, there’s good news (like very good in this case) and bad news (resigned sighs are heard throughout Blaugrana-land).
First, the bad news – injuries. The FIFA virus bit hard. Alba, Pedro and Xavi returned injured from international duties. They joined Adriano and Puyol in the sick bay. Maybe they’ll gather around the table and play tiddlywinks while they watch the game tonight.
Valdés – after his MotM performance for La Roja vs. France – is missing his 3rd match after being red-carded for telling a referee some home truths in a manner which was not appreciated.
The good news is that Alexis returned uninjured! Partly because he was suspended for the second of Chile’s matches, I suspect. However, we’ll take good fortune when it comes our way.
The best news comes in 2 parts:
1. Tito returned to Barcelona and was in charge of the team’s training run on Friday before they left for Vigo. Tito didn’t travel with the team, so it will still be cellphone calls and Whatsapp to the rescue.
2. Abidal is in the squad!
I’ll say that again:
ABIDAL IS IN THE SQUAD AND HAS TRAVELLED WITH THE TEAM!!!!!
The Travelling Blaugranaberries
The 19 man squad is:
GKs: Pinto, Oier
Defence: Alves, Montoya, Piqué, Bartra, Mascherano, Abidal
Midfield: Thiago, Dos Santos, Busquets, Song, Iniesta, Cesc
Forwards: Alexis, Deulofeu, Messi, Villa, Tello
Another Day, Another Couple of Records
Messi can set some more records:
1. His chance to score in his millionth consecutive game.
2. His chance to score against all the Liga teams in consecutive matches. Celta de Vigo is the last of the 19 teams. Incredible to think that the last time Messi didn’t score in a match was the first of the season’s games against Celta.
The game kicks off at 18:00 CET on Saturday 30th March
Click here to convert the match time to your timezone: Celta de Vigo vs. FC Barcelona